History Lesson, by Scott Owens

Scott Owens
HISTORY LESSON

It all started with the Star-Spangled Banner
my daughter’s teacher was trying to teach her at school.
She asked me whose bombs were bursting in air
and why they wanted to fight with America.

So I told her about 1492
and how the white people didn’t see the red people
as people and how the Arawak were slaughtered
for gold, and the Cherokee, and the Creek, and the Kiowa,

and how in time the whites who stayed in America
didn’t want to pay taxes to the whites who stayed overseas
and so they went to war to be their own country
and she asked if that was how the Civil War started

so I told her about 1452
and how the white people didn’t see the black people
as people and how the Ashanti were enslaved
and the Yoruba and the Mendi and the Gbandi

and how in time the whites who stayed enslaved
in their minds didn’t want to pay taxes to the whites
who had become free in their minds and so
they went to war to be their own country

and I knew from the silence in the back seat
that she was thinking, but as she opened the door
and stepped out toward the school
of the Star-Spangled Banner, of proud hailing

and gallant streaming, of the free and brave
a clear understanding came to her and she shouted back
in her limited, disappearing 7-year-old vocabulary,
White people suck.

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